Ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor, on Thursday managed occasional smiles as he sat in the VIP gallery over-looking the floor of Parliament and listened to President John Evans Ata Mills criticize the NPP administration of which he was at the head.
President Mills did not mince words on the impact of the Kufuor administration's “excessive government spending, large size of government and luxury spending on the presidency” on the economy.
The president made particular reference to the previous government's spending in the last few months before they left office and also to the controversial purchase of two presidential jets.
But in the midst of all those direct criticism of the previous presidency, the former president maintained a cheerful face and sometimes even managed to pull through with a smile.
On the contrary, former President Rawlings kept a rather straight face throughout the period of the speech and sometimes bent forward to look across the four security officers sitting between him and former President Kufuor, arguably to check his reaction.
The two former Presidents got different reaction from the floor of the house when they entered at different times. Former President Kufuor and his wife Theresa received greetings from members of the minority who filed upstairs to welcome their former leader.
A loud cheer of “here-here” from the majority side of the House greeted former President Rawlings and his wife Nana Konadu when they entered and you would trust the former president to take a bow.
From about 10.23hours when the President commenced the delivery of his speech till he finished, members from both sides of the house, particularly the minority side, kept interrupting him and causing intermittent breaks in his speech.
The minority side, particularly, Mr. Isaac Asiamah, NPP Atwima-Mponua kept throwing questions at the president, to which the president often provided answers to the amusement of the House before resuming the main text of the address.
Minority members kept throwing words and statement like “we don't like it, moving forward, kangaroo courts, it's long overdue” among others at the President, whiles the majority side countered with statement like “yes –yes, we love it, you know the work, yeresesamu (change), Agbena (it is finished)” and more at various points during the speech.
You would here the minority scream “more water” any time the president paused to sip some water, but at some point the president responded “I need to drink water because I am about talk about the economy.”
One of the most interesting parts of the address was when the president said there was need to extend a hand of generosity and forgiveness to all. That statement sparked the minority side into screaming “that includes Asaga – forgive Asaga – bring back Asaga.”
It would be recalled that the President withdrew the nomination of Mr. Moses Asaga, NDC Nabdam as Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing on account of his signing the controversial ex-gratia award for MPs.
The President sparked a loud laughter when he concluded his speech with a statement in Akan which is translated; “we are changing to move forward”, apparently combining both of slogans of the NDC and NPP for the 2008 elections.
Mr. Alban Sumani Bagbin, the Majority Leader, who maintained a rather calm composure during all the screaming of “no” and “here-here” and laughter, had his share of the fun when, in moving for adjournment said, “when you see an elephant jumping like a kangaroo then that elephant is fatally wounded.”
He said that statement was to emphasize the need for consensus building, keeping in mind that, no political party would be the majority forever.
Mr. Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, the Minority Leader, affectionately called “whimsical and capricious” said the minority would look forward to the deeds behinds the inspiring words of the president.
The House was full to capacity, with ministers of state, members of the judiciary, traditional councils, clergy, diplomatic corps, leaders and former flag bearers of other political parties as well as local and foreign journalists, but a close look at the floor of the House itself revealed at least 15 empty seats on the minority side and nine on the majority side.